Where is Jesus in the carpark?

How should we best respond to the injustices we encounter in daily life?

There are many things I face on a daily basis as a mother that I would never have known anything about before I became one.  One such thing that has come up a lot lately as I have to deal with it every weekday is the politics of parking. The issue could perhaps be passed off as trivial and a “first world problem”. Nevertheless it reeks of injustice and bothers me. I ask myself what would Jesus do in this situation and wonder how best to respond.

The situation

My children go to a daycare which is run by a Catholic non-profit, which has the mission of providing loving care.  One the same property block there is a Catholic church and a Catholic primary school. The church and the primary school operate separately, but all three organisations share a common carpark which is legally owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane but was acquired using government funds that were procured by the primary school (in my country Australia, Catholic schools receive quite a lot of government funding due to historical reasons – the whole education system in Australia would collapse without them). 

The fact that the primary school procured funds has led the Vice Principal of the school to believe that he owns the car park and he has drawn up a parking policy which has total disregard for the health and safety of the daycare staff, parents and children, as well as the parishioners who attend the church. For two hours each day he uses a combination of fluorescent vests, aviation light signals and witches hats to patrol the parking lot and enforce his parking policy.  To abide by his parking policy during these times I am required to park at the back of the parking lot and walk across several rows of parking where parents or parishioners may be in the process of parking and then across a road where a line of cars is waiting to do “drop and go” for their primary school age children.  I have three children aged four, two and a baby and I often have all three of them with me at drop off.  My two year old is a runner.  I physically do not have enough hands to protect my two year old from traffic if she decides to do a dash, so I prefer to park as close to the daycare centre as possible rather than where I am required to cross the car park. However, where I prefer to park is considered a “drop off zone only” during patrol hours.

Staff at the daycare centre and parishioners are relegated to second class citizens in the car park.  Two rows of parks have been stamped with a paint noting they are reserved for school staff only.  This I find very disappointing seeing as many of the daycare centre staff do early and late shifts which mean that in the winter months when it is dark they have to walk to the back of the car parking lot where visibility is limited and they could easily be attacked by an opportunist. 

How I have been responding

The issue of the carpark bothers me as I do not feel that all people who need to use the carpark have been considered and the question of how to respond to this injustice confronts me every day. I ask myself what my options are and what would Jesus do in this situation.

I go through phases of dealing with the issue in different ways. I have been choosing to engage in acts of “civil disobedience” lately. I have come back to my car several times for it it to be surrounded by witches hats and been told off by either teachers at the school, parents volunteering to monitor the car park during this time or even primary school students enlisted by the Vice Principal to enforce his policy.  I have asserted my position each time and the Vice Principal’s minions have scurried away. They found it difficult to argue with at first my fiery pregnancy hormones, obvious pregnancy and the fact I relayed to them that I was on heart medication due to pregnancy complications. Directly after giving birth and when I returned to do school pick up it was difficult to argue that I should not be able to park where I was parking when my walking capacity was limited and I still had stitches. However, the fact that I was parking there was obviously reported back to the Vice Principal as I received an email last week from the Director of the daycare advising all of the parents at the daycare of the Vice Principal’s concerns. This in itself is disappointing as it shows she is not willing to fight for the position of her own staff, children in care and parents dropping them off. I have advised her that I would like the health and safety concern raised with Centrecare but am yet to receive a response.

So after receiving this email I ask myself what should I do now. What would Jesus do? The fact is that the Vice Principal controlling the parking lot has no ability to fine me and believe that I am totally within my rights to park where it is safest for my children. So should I continue doing so and fight for justice in this situation? My other options? Perhaps I could leave the centre where my children are happy and cared for by Educators that are loving and to whom they are attached and send them to a different one? I could also acquiesce to the Vice Principal’s demands. But, I don’t feel right about doing that.

For the past week I have been avoiding the times when the carpark is patrolled which is working pretty well but it irks me that my family has to wake up earlier and rush more in order to avoid confrontation with the Vice Principal, who by some at the daycare has been dubbed the “Car park Nazi”.

Have you encountered a similar problem? How did you respond and did this lead to any positive change?

Speaking with other parents who go to other schools and daycares, both Catholic and secular, I have come to realise that car park wars are common. What would Jesus do if her were to confront a car park war dilemma and how can we best love and be Christian in these circumstances? How hard should I, and others, push for justice, when should I let things go? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on how we, as Catholics, striving for justice, should strive to assert our rights when these small injustices occur. I feel if we don’t assert ourselves in the small things then these small things may grow into bigger injustices. Is this the case? Or are there times when we should just let things go?

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